When we arrived in the new place we didn’t know what to expect. The livestock was plentiful, and well-trained with arms and legs that worked machines and eyes that surveyed watchfully, the housing thick and occupied, the air barely breathable due to the closest factory spewing black into the midnight air. As if pollution could be hidden away, tucked into the late hour like a beddy-by-child.
It grew on us like moss. First, my neighbor to the left went under; finding a job at the local post office. Then my neighbor to the right, who I’d always thought would be my friend even after the transition, found a job at the local deli. I never felt so out of place.
Before our travels, I never thought I’d miss home so much. The dirt floors, caked red and hot in the day time, cool sands with unbearably freezing winds at night. I thought once I lay upon this downy thick, I would know what true comfort felt like. The way the inhabitant before me must have crawled beneath sheets warmed by the all-day sun. How they must have sat at the table to gobble their meals, crunching on chicken legs, and sipping the sweet cool liquid of yellow lemonade. How they walked these same halls as temporary tenants in my new home. But I felt no kindred spirit to them.
I wonder, thinking myself a neighbor soon to go under, if anyone was intrigued by me. By what I do and why I’d been allowed the biggest house on the block. I could stand here, where I am now, at the front of my window, in this temperature-controlled dwelling, and I can see theirs. The vast differences- oh, how the previous tenants showed their wealth – and the way I could see out to them but, having stood outside my own doors at night, they couldn’t see in. No matter how many lights were on.
Here I stood in my surveoyrism, and yet, I thought of their opinions. I could laugh at the number of times, before we came here, I thought of other’s opinions of me. In this new place, with it’s attention to status and hierarchy, I could only assume the bigger the dwelling the more important the character.
I’d always been good with things back home. My hands tinkering while my brains solved issues of another. I wasn’t the only one. Far from it. It wasn’t until we were prepped to move to this new place that my Highers realized I had an affinity for the unknown.
Day to day I would sit in my square, at the desk that rearranged itself to my liking at the beginning of the night, and I would fiddle with the new toys. My favorite, having been given to me by a Higher with a brow so thin and arched it blended with the hairline to low on the forehead, sat on a pedestal right inside the front door.
Looking now, where it was luminescent beneath the spotlight, I felt a sense of apprehension. These lights, in this new place, showed too much. Or maybe the ones back home showed not enough. You see particles floating in the air, slowly – as if gravity does not belong to them. I wonder where they come from. The factory just on the outskirts? I shine it daily, swiping at the air to remove the debris, but it does nothing to fix the main issue. The atmosphere is bad. No wonder everything dies here.
“Are you going to stand there all day?” I turn to see my replica coming down the stairs, floating on limber legs.
“I have the mind to do so,” I reply and turn away from him, and my prize, and look out on my neighbors again. There are a few lights on, scattered like stars in the darkness. I want to focus, to see if I can peer into their windows and into their lives. Maybe they are doing the same thing as me: adjusting.
“I thought you had more things to discover, do you not?” my replica asks. I turn to look at him again. He sees my prize, which he knows he can not touch, and mimes the action of its use. One hand up, thumb out, long finger pumping back and forth as if to jerk a trigger. I want to frown, we do not like violence, but it is indeed what the prize does. I do not fault him his curiosity.
“I do, I must go to the market today. They are struggling to keep up with production. Something must be done,” I said firmly. When we are not productive, we are not useful. Then we will die. “I will go down and see what I can do.”
“Do they think you a celebrity?” my replica asked, having moved over to join me at the window. Two lights blink and then die, another family gone to sleep.
“They do not know me at all, little one. They only know their lives will ease. As is the way,” I say.
“So, they have no idea that you’re the reason? That doesn’t seem right! Why can’t we tell them? Maybe they…”
“As is the way,” I interrupt.
“But they wouldn’t look at us with those eyes,” he pouted.
“What eyes?” I ask.
“The ones that shift with my gaze. They see us but do not see us. They ask about this,” he throws up his four arms, simultaneously motioning to the corners of the room, and it’s lavish gold trimming.
“As is the way,” I shake my head at him but push back my shoulders. I turn back to the window, dismissing him of his questions and his frustration. He should excuse the misgivings the previous tenants left for us. It was not we who built this home and it’s difference to those aside it. We could only take what was here and provided us. As is the way.